Pa. judge orders county to stop issuing same-sex marriage licenses

LGBTQ Nation -  - Thursday, September 12, 2013

Matt Rourke, APMarcus Saitschenko, left, and James Goldstein obtain a marriage license at a Montgomery County office on July 24, 2013.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Pennsylvania judge on Thursday ordered a suburban Philadelphia clerk to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini said Montgomery County Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes did not have the power to decide on his own whether Pennsylvania’s same-sex marriage ban violates the state constitution.

Matt Rourke, AP
Marcus Saitschenko, left, and James Goldstein obtain a marriage license at a Montgomery County office on July 24, 2013.

“Unless and until either the General Assembly repeals or suspends the Marriage Law provisions or a court of competent jurisdiction orders that the law is not to be obeyed or enforced, the Marriage Law in its entirety is to be obeyed and enforced by all commonwealth public officials,” Pellegrini wrote.

It was not immediately clear what the decision would mean to those who have already received a license.

The state Health Department under Republican Gov. Tom Corbett sued Hanes after he began issuing licenses to same-sex couples in July, despite a 1996 state law that defines mar riage as between a man and a woman. The department argued that Hanes’ actions could create chaos.

James Schultz, Corbett’s general counsel, issued a statement saying the key issue was whether local officials can decide which laws to uphold or reject, based on their personal legal opinion.

“We respect the interests and dignity of all the parties involved in this case, but we are a government of laws and it is important that all office holders across the state enforce those laws uniformly,” Schultz said.

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